Activity design in online professional development for university staff

Janet Macdonald [], Anne Campbell
Open University in Scotland [],
10 Drumsheugh Gardens,
Edinburgh EH3 7QJ, UK


Professional development for distance tutors is traditionally delivered through texts or websites, supplemented by face to face workshops. However, one of the major challenges is to ensure that they engage with the materials and carry away something which is of value to their practice.  At the Open University (UK) our 8000 tutors work from home, and have few opportunities to meet fellow tutors on the course that they tutor.  We have been exploring the use of online activity design to support tutors in learning by undertaking activities in online communities. This provides opportunities for professional development and discussion with their peers, while at the same time offering some flexibility in participation. 

This paper describes a case study of an award winning initiative at the Open University (UK) which now delivers professional development in online communities of distance tutors, operating at scale: some 2000 tutors have been trained to date, and our courses have a 75% completion rate.  Drawing on data from 370 recent participants, it discusses some of the lessons we have learnt on the reasons for the widespread success of this initiative and the factors influencing effective activity design on the course.

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e-learning, distance learning, distance education, online learning, higher education, DE, blended learning, MOOCs, ICT, information and communication technology, collaborative learning, internet, interaction, learning management system, LMS,

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